STILLWATER — Bill Young went down the sideline, offering words of encouragement to his players.
The game was less than a quarter old, and already, TCU led by two scores.
“We'll get this thing turned around,” the Oklahoma State defensive coordinator assured his guys.
Many times over the past few seasons, “we” has ended up being the high-scoring, high-powered Cowboy offense with the defense riding the coattails.
But Saturday, “we” turned out to be the defense.
OSU 36, TCU 14.
On the afternoon that Wes Lunt finally returned, the Cowboy offense looked early on like it was being quarterbacked by a true freshman who'd missed more than a month because of an injury. Which, of course, it was. The Cowboys sputtered and stalled and came up with a grand total of 13 yards on their first four possessions.
They were all kinds of ugly.
The Cowboy defense was anything but.
The defense held the Horned Frogs in check and gave Lunt a chance to knock off the rust and the offense a chance to get rolling.
“They kept us in the game throughout the first half,” receiver Charlie Moore said.
All hail the Cowboy defense.
After a rocky start to this season, the defense looks to be hitting a stride. A week ago against Iowa State, it got 11 consecutive stops. Saturday against TCU, it did the same.
OSU allowed a touchdown late in the first quarter — by far the defense's worst sequence of the day — but then, TCU went punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, end of half, punt, missed field goal, punt, fumble, interception, interception.
It was a heck of a performance.
Granted, neither the Cyclones nor the Horned Frogs have the best of offenses, but coming up with that many consecutive stops in back-to-back games is a stellar stretch regardless of the opponent.
And considering the early 14-0 hole that the Cowboys found themselves in Saturday — the first Horned Frog score was a pick-six — it would've been easy for the defense to buckle a bit. They could've watched the offense struggling. They could've sensed things headed in the wrong direction. They could've folded.
Young has seen it happen.
“You get the roof start to cave in and you can't shore it up,” he said. “I've been there ... and it's not much fun.”
But what the Cowboys did Saturday was fun.
Lots of fun.
They showed the kind of tenacity and toughness that will serve them well in the coming weeks. Remember, games against Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma await in November, and with the way the OSU defense is playing, the Cowboys look to have a much better chance in those games than they did even a couple weeks ago.
The Cowboy defense insists that it draws strength from the offense, which has become so automatic over the past few seasons.
“We have so much confidence in our offense,” Young said. “I think everybody to a man knew it was just a matter of time before they broke loose and really started making some plays.”
Cowboy defensive end Cooper Bassett said, “We were telling the offense to keep choppin', keep workin'. As good as our offense is, we knew eventually something was going to give and we were going to start scoring points.”
Those are nice things to say, but don't let them fool you.
OSU beat TCU because of defense.
This is a defense that is continuing to improve, that is starting to force turnovers, that is growing fangs.
The timing couldn't be better.
“I'm just so excited, fired up for this last half of the season because of the way we're playing,” Bassett said. “If we keep it up, there's not telling what we could do.”